Suzuki Jimny | PH Used Buying Guide

A minor classic in its own (very short) lifetime, here's what to look for buying a secondhand Jimny

By Tony Middlehurst / Sunday, 14 August 2022 / Loading comments

Key considerations 

  • Available for £22,000
  • 1.5-litre inline four petrol, switchable 2WD/4WD
  • Suzuki’s equivalent of the Defender
  • Tremendous off-road, not that great on it
  • Rubbish by most objective yardsticks…
  • …but it makes you smile and will hold its value 

As a car manufacturer, how do you make your product incredibly sought after? The most obvious way is to make it incredibly desirable. The only problem with that is that the price will be incredibly high.  

Another way to generate buyer interest is to work the supply and demand curve. Limiting sales of something that’s had good reviews in the press will result in buyers paying over the odds to get their hands on one. Again, this is a commonly employed technique among high-end brands, but it’s unusual to see it in action at the cheaper end of the market.  

Which is kind of what happened with the gen-four Jimny, even if the ‘sales limiting’ aspect was more or less forced onto Suzuki rather than a conscious marketing choice. Launched in July 2018, the new Jimny was an old-school body-on-ladder-frame design. Suzuki’s Allgrip Pro part-time all-wheel drive system with low range gave it strong off-road ability, but the rigid-axle suspension was rudimentary. The engine was a far from innovative 100hp 1.5 petrol four. Top speed was 90mph at a push and Suzuki didn’t even quote an official 0-62mph time, but we’ve seen tests online suggesting for low 12s the manual and low 15s for the auto.  

It’s fair to say that if you only looked at the spec you’d probably never buy one, but the Jimny had three secret weapons. One, it was excellent off-road. Two, it was cute. And three, it was about the cheapest small 4WD vehicle you could buy. Well, until the values went mad anyway… 

There were two Jimny specifications, the base SZ4 with steel wheels and non-colour coded door handles and the posher SZ5 with LED headlights, alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, a seven-inch infotainment screen, climate control and heated seats. As a big part of the Jimny’s appeal lay in the simplicity of its design, the minimalism of the SZ4 spec made it more interesting than the SZ5 for many.  

The most interesting thing about the Jimny however was what happened to its prices. Suzuki had announced that Jimny sales for 2020 would be severely limited prior to its complete removal from the European market after just two years on sale. The CO2 emissions of the Jimny’s petrol engine were messing up the more attractive hybrid-heavy emissions range average that Suzuki wanted to publish in its brochures.  

The starting price for the Jimny in 2018 was under £16,000 but examples soon began attracting bids of getting on for twice that. The standard passenger Jimny was canned in summer 2020 with only 2,400 or so sold. It did sort of come back later that year as a two-seat Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) as that was able to take advantage of weaker emissions regs. Once again the prospect of limited supplies had the effect of trampolining the £19,999 RRP (after VAT) up to sky-high levels on the open market. The supposedly commercial spec didn’t stop delivery mileage examples shooting up to the £30k mark. 

Amazing really when you considered what you were getting in either SUV or van variants – a two-box design a toddler could have drawn, a speedo needle that rarely saw 90mph, and an on-road dynamic that made you wonder if you’d slipped into some sort of glutinous time vortex. Objectively it wasn’t easy to see what all the fuss was about, but there again you could say the same thing about the Defender and that didn’t do too badly.  

The gen-four Jimny surfed in on a big wave of retro-chic euphoria and, frankly, relief that the bouncy old gen-three was finally being replaced after twenty years. The marked contrast between the old and the new led to a certain amount of over-enthusiasm in some of the first gen-four road tests. Those early reviews undoubtedly helped to pump up values that were already being inflated by the public knowledge that the new Jimnys were going to be in short supply. 

After a while the euphoria died down a bit and the bubble lost some of its pressure. It didn’t go flat though. Values remained strong, but the Jimny did at least find its true place as a three or possibly three and a half stars out of five kind of car. 

So, the high tide of gen-four Jimny prices has receded somewhat, but as of now (August 2022) you’ll still do well to pick up a used gen-four for under £22k. If you really want an excuse to shriek with indignation take a gander at the prices for the old gen-three. Now there’s a great example of a car where values have consistently outstripped talent. Owners will defend them to the last, however. As a result, low-mile gen-threes are going for up to £18k. Against that, £22k for a considerably nicer gen-four might seem like a bargain. Is it though? Let’s have a look at what you get for your twenty-two grand…

SPECIFICATION – SUZUKI JIMNY (2018-on) 

Engine: 1,462cc, four-cylTransmission: 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto, four-wheel drive?Power (hp): [email protected],000rpmTorque (lb ft): [email protected],000rpm0-62mph (secs): low to mid 12s (no official figure given)Top speed (mph): 90Weight (kg): 1,165MPG (WLTP): 35.8 (32.2 auto)CO2 (g/km, WLTP): 178 (198 auto)
Wheels (in): 5.5 x 15  
Tyres: 195/80On sale: 2018 – 2021Price new: £15,879Price now: from £22,000 

Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.   


ENGINE & GEARBOX

The engine wasn’t powerful, nor was it refined, so it wasn’t raved about by road testers who were obliged to grade it against other engines. None of that stuff really mattered to the average Jimny buyer, who just wanted the oily lump under the bonnet to get them hither and yon. It did that well enough as long as you didn’t want to hustle for a ferry or get your missis to the maternity ward in a hurry.  

The five-speed manual gearbox was slightly frustrating. The stick and the throw were both long. Via a separate smaller lever you had switchability between two and four-wheel drive, plus an AWD low range. Instead of specifying mechanically locking differentials, Suzuki went down the easier route of apportioning torque to wheels via electronic traction control. The 4-speed auto option was only available on top SZ5 spec cars.  

To go with its traditional powertrain the Jimny had traditional fuel consumption figures: mid-30s in the manual and low 30s in the auto. Also hurting you on the running costs front were oddly short service intervals of 9,000 miles (or 12 months).  The first two services would be £199 for an interim (oil and filter, brake and clutch fluid) and £258 for a major (oil, brake and clutch fluids, plus oil, air and pollen filters). After that, the majors would cost £279. Dealer services would cost £129 for a minor (health check, oil and filter change). Coolant was meant to be changed every 3 years or 27,000 miles unless you opted for long-life coolant in which case the intervals stretched to 5 years/48,000 miles. Timing was by chain, not belt. 

There have been two Jimny recalls (issued on the same day in July 2021) to replace the fuel pump on 500 cars built between May and November 2018 and to replace the wiring loom for the airbags. That one affected all non-LCV Jimnys. Apart from that we’re not aware of any common problems.  

CHASSIS 

The old gen-three Jimny was surprisingly good off-road. We say ‘surprisingly’ because it didn’t have any of the new car’s tech driver aids like hill hold, hill descent control, autonomous emergency braking and the like. So the new car is, predictably, even better than the old one when the going gets tough, with a 37deg approach angle, a ramp breakover angle of 28deg, a 49deg departure angle and 210mm ground clearance. All serious numbers for off-roaders which means you can expect to see beat-up gen-four Jimnys haunting the dirt roads and quarries down your way in a few years’ time. It’s a really capable little thing.  

Between-model improvements on the road had been made too, but buyers quickly learnt not to get their hopes too high. The Suzuki’s live axle chassis supported by coil springs was a dependable sort of design for mixed use, but despite Suzuki beefing it up with extra cross-members and high-strength steels for the front axle housing it was never going to deliver the last word in satisfying handling.  

That message came through loud and clear in the mid-20th century feel of its electronically assisted recirculating-ball steering, which is a phrase your dad might recognise. Recirc steering is good for vehicles like trucks because it offers more steering travel than a rack and pinion setup, but on a car it’s nowhere near as good as a rack when it comes to steering feel. Come to a gen-four Jimny from practically any other vaguely modern car and you might be surprised at the amount of corrective action you have to put in to keep it tracking in a straight line. 

The car’s reaction to bumps, especially in the LCV, was more or less to say to the passengers ‘here’s a bump, let’s deal with it together’. Put that down to the difficulty of delivering affordably compliant suspension in such a physically small package. Roll instability could be disconcerting at higher speeds, encouraging the driver to revert to lower speeds. Still, in spite of all its obvious shortcomings, the Jimny was hard to dislike. Like the Defender, you just accepted its flaws and drove accordingly. You could tow with a gen-four Jimny, but the limit is 1,300kg.  

INTERIOR  

As noted earlier, there were two Jimny specs, neither of them exactly lavish. No factory fit extras were offered, just a range of dealer-fit tat like stickers and spare wheel covers, along with more useful stuff like mud flaps and skid plates.  

Still, if you enjoyed the chic functionality of black plastic and painted panels and didn’t mind the crassness of bogus ‘bolts’ you would be in your element. In the Jimny’s defence the switchgear and buttons were usefully large and even the basic and commercial models allowed you to hook up to a digital sound system via Bluetooth. You also had (manual) air conditioning and cruise control. The SZ5 had climate control, heated front seats, a 7-inch touchscreen with sat nav and a leather-covered steering wheel.   

Although the back seats had Isofix child seat mounts, and the boxy design meant that headroom was never going to be an issue in any part of the car, the back seats themselves were almost comically small and legroom was sparse. You could delete the word ‘almost’ when it came to the boot which, with the back seats in place, gave you 85 litres of, well, we have to call it space. It was enough for three or four socks and some underpants but not much more. Even with the back seats down there was only 377 litres. Compare that to the 430-440 litres typically provided by Qashqai-sized SUVs – with the back seats in place. 

Obviously you got a lot more boot space in the commercial version of the Jimny because apart from the two seats at the front the LCV was basically all boot. We tried to find out the distance between the seats and the tailgate in case a six-footer could lie down in the back. If they could, then you could potentially bung a mattress in there and hey presto! A cheap motorhome. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that stat. You’d need to be careful what else you put in the back though, apart from yourselves, because the payload rating was only 150kg. It is possible to retrofit back seats to the LCV.  

There was no reach adjustment for the steering wheel. Tall folk thinking of investing in an LCV were well advised to try out the front seats for legroom because the mesh partition that was behind the seats to stop you getting brained by flying parcels also cut down on the amount of backwards seat travel. 

BODYWORK

How long do you reckon it might have taken for Suzuki’s designers to knock up the first sketches for the new Jimny? Five minutes? Ten? We’re not being critical there. Sometimes the simplest designs are the best. None of your slitty headlights or drag-optimised front ends here, just a fridge-flat front and round headlamps with separate indicators, just like they used to be. That simplistic approach to styling made the Jimny easy to love.  

As you’d expect from a vehicle that had been brought in to replace something twenty years old, it was wider and taller than the gen-three, but what you might not expect was the fact that the new Jimny was actually shorter than the old one, by 30mm. The idea there was to make it possible for Suzuki to build a 650cc kei car version for the Japanese domestic market.   

As a breed, side-hinged rear doors tend to develop problems over time, especially when they’re used as a mount for the spare wheel. It’s early days yet for the new Jimny but that’s a potential area of wear. Although the LCV was technically a ‘van’, whatever you take that word to mean, it had glass side windows. 

PH VERDICT 

The Mk 3 Jimny was one of those rare cars that made you smile even though you weren’t always sure why. They didn’t stack up on many or indeed most levels. They’d probably be the last choice for anyone who needed to put in more than ten motorway miles a day, but if you took your sensible hat off and dug back into your inner child you’d most likely find that none of the dynamic issues really mattered. All you had to do was learn to ignore them.  

Setting all rationale and logic aside, you certainly knew why you were smiling when it came to selling a Jimny on because there were large profits to be made. Just 1,200 cars a year were brought into the UK over its two-year lifespan and there were a lot more people than that wanting them. The story was just as cheery if you had no intention of getting rid of your Jimny because Suzuki as a brand has a good reputation for reliability (if not luxury) and there are no signs so far that the Jimny is going to mess that up.  

Once upon a time, looking underneath a car you were thinking of buying was second nature. Not so much now as there’s not a lot to see. Most of the stuff you might be interested in is covered by plastic shrouds. You should get under a Jimny though as people do take them off-road and you’ll want to make sure it’s not taken too many big hits.  

There has been some recent talk of the passenger Jimny coming back to the UK in extended 5-door format with a Vitara type hybrid powertrain, either a 127hp 1.4 turbo mild or a 113hp 1.5 full. Either way it should be a bit livelier than the 3-door with its 100hp 1.5, although given the tough financial constraints being experienced at this end of the market you wonder how many Dacia Duster buyers will desert the brand in favour of a hybrid Jimny that could very likely be twice the price.  

Anyway, that’s just one possible future. At the time of writing the most affordable Jimny on PH Classifieds was this 13,000 mile 2019 base spec SZ4 in white on black steelies at £22,495. And for an extra £1,500 here’s the cheapest SZ5, a later but higher-mileage 2020 car at £23,995.  If you don’t need back seats, new or as-new LCVs with delivery mileage can be had from around £24k. That’ll be plus VAT, but here’s a privately owned July ’22 registered one at £25,495 with no tax to pay on top.

At the top end of the spectrum, what about something a bit different? Many Jimny buyers saw them as miniature-G-Wagens, but not many went to the trouble of turning that thought into reality. The buyer of this ‘mini-G63 Brabus’ SZ5 did. It comes in matt black with an all-leather interior, G-Class bonnet repeaters, starry headlining and even side-exit exhausts. A fun pastiche, at a price: a tenner short of £35k. 


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